Sovereign

I wanted to open up this post with some of the same scriptures quoted in my previous post.

Isaiah 43:8-13; 44:6-8, 24-25; 46:5-10 (ESV)

Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!   All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true.   “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord , “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.   I, I am the Lord , and besides me there is no savior.  I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord , “and I am God.  Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

Thus says the Lord , the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.   Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.  Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

Thus says the Lord , your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord , who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,  who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish.

“To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?   Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship!   They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble.  “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors,  remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,   declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'”

These passages paint a vivid portrait of the sovereignty of God. Before Him no god was formed, nor shall there be any after Him. Besides Him there is no savior. He is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega. There is no one like Him. He alone calls the end from the beginning and His purposes are always accomplished. He is what the theologians and philosophers call maximally great. Anselm called God than which nothing greater can be conceived.

The sin of Lucifer, and the original sin of Adam and Eve was that they thought they could be their own god. That is why Lucifer fell, and that is why our forefathers fell. Yet, even within the Church there are people who essentially see themselves as sovereign over their lives, rather than the Creator of the heavens and the earth.

Jude admonished us to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). Today one most dangerous heretical factions preaching another gospel is the Word of Faith movement. It is not the faith once and for all delivered to the saints; it is preaches doctrines of demons.

Word of Faith teaches that we create reality with the words we speak, that God is bound by His Word to bless us if we follow the right steps, and even that we are little gods. Even where the little god doctrine is not taught explicitly, it logically follows from the other teachings. Much has already been written about the leaders of the movement, but I would like to focus on the false doctrines here.

1. Does the Bible teach that our words create our reality?

The Bible does have a lot to say about our words and their power. For example, it does teach that death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits (Proverbs 18:21, ESV). In fact, there are several proverbs on the power of our words. Proverbs says that a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1, ESV), a gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (Proverbs 15:4, ESV), and to make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is (Proverbs 15:23, ESV)! There is a lot more that Proverbs has to say about our words that I have left out for the sake of brevity.

Other books of the Bible also have some things to say about the power of the tongue. James wrote,

James 3:2-10 (ESV)

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

Jesus Himself said,

Matthew 12:33-37 ESV

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Clearly, the Word of God teaches us that words are potent. But do any of these passages actually teach that our words create reality? I don’t see it. These verses indicate that our words can affect the world for good or ill, but nothing here indicates reality is created by the words we say. The most popular proof text for words creating reality is Romans 4:17. The Word of Faith advocate will tell us that we are to calleth those things which be not as though they were. Is this what the Bible is telling us here? Let’s look at the passage in context, using a straightforward modern translation (the Authorized King James Version is an excellent translation, but the archaic language makes it easier to misunderstand or twist the meaning).

Romans 4:13-25 ESV

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Abraham did not calleth those things which be not as though they were or
[call] into existence the things that do not exist–from nothing. Instead, he put his faith in God, who alone can create ex nihilo–from nothing. Abraham did not receive God’s blessing by making a positive confession, but by believing what God had said. In this instance, the only One wielding power with words was the Almighty. This is the lesson that Paul wanted us to learn from the life of Abraham, that he was justified by his faith just as we can be justified by faith-faith in God, that is. Positive affirmations and Bible verses recited as incantations won’t do us any good.

The truth is that this doctrine of creating reality with words is not derived from the Bible, but from an occult form of spirituality called New Thought. New Thought is not a monolithic movement, but is actually an umbrella term for several religious movements such as Religious Science, Unity Church, and Church of Divine Science, along with other ideologically similar groups. New Thought churches use the Bible as their primary text, but their spiritual practices more closely resemble New Age and Eastern mysticism. They affirm belief in God, the divinity of human selfhood, the value of mystical experiences, that the highest virtue is love, and that our mental states manifest reality. Positive affirmation and affirmative prayer play an important role in manifesting the desired reality, just as in Word of Faith. Both New Thought and Word of Faith teach that all the believer needs to do is “name it and claim it,” and it will come to pass. Christians ought to derive their theology from scripture alone, not from occult religions.

2. Does the Bible teach that God is bound by His Word to bless us if we follow the right steps?

As with most effective deceptions, this has a grain of truth. God does not lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2), and in fact it is actually impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18). Therefore, if God made a promise in scripture, by His very nature He must fulfill it.

Where the Word of Faith teaching goes awry is in determining what the promises in the Bible are, assigning promises of financial prosperity where none exist. This is why the Word of Faith movement is often called the Prosperity Gospel.

For example, the Word of Faith teaching on Luke 6:38 is that if the believer gives financially the believer will receive back financially good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. However, the context of the passage, Jesus is not teaching about money but inappropriate judgment, condemnation, and forgiveness.

Luke 6:37-42 ESV

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Another misappropriated promise can be found in Matthew 13:23 (or Mark 4:8, 20). According to the preaching of Word of Faith ministers, the believer who gives to a ministry can expect to receive back from God financially in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty, depending on the “quality of the soil” i.e. the quality of the minister. Jesus’ teachings here have nothing whatsoever to do with material wealth or prosperity, but are spoken as part of an explanation of the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-9. His disciples ask Him to explain the parable (Matthew 13:10-17), and so He gives the plain meaning of the allegory in Matthew 13:18-23 (ESV).

Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

Can you read these passages and “show me the money”? Jesus is not teaching about money at all, but the spread of the word of the kingdom–the gospel.

Child of God, if we would only read our Bibles we would not be taken in by these hucksters. I myself used to watch various Word of Faith television ministries on a daily basis until the Holy Spirit opened my eyes. This is only the tip of the iceberg. I recall even hearing one minister teach that the believer could receive the anointing of a minister if they financially supported that minister’s ministry. Apparently, this particular minister had not taken the account in Acts of Simon the Magician (Acts 8:9-25) to heart.

In addition, because of the borrowed New Thought dogma of creating reality with our words, a strange emphasis is placed on receiving biblical promises by “speaking them forth.” Believers are encouraged, for instance, to “name their seed.” If the believer has a need such as healing, or a financial breakthrough, or salvation of a family member, or even a want for a new car, or house, or success in business, they are taught to make a positive confession over their financial offering. The affirmation and the financial offering are actually thought to aid in the fulfillment of the affirmative prayer. In scriptures that seem to mention any kind of speech, the references to speech are overemphasized as an example of the efficacy of verbal affirmation. For example, it isn’t faith alone that moves mountains–the believer must speak to the mountain, since whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ will move the mountain by faith (Mark 11:23). Even in a key passage on salvation, the tongue is necessary.

Romans 10:8-10 ESV

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

The Word of Faith teaching is that we are not saved by faith alone, but by a positive confession that Jesus is Lord! Yes, you read that right. As much as I wanted to keep specific names out of this, I’m going to have to use one since I will be using a direct quote from the Kenneth Copeland Ministries website, because the claim that the Word of Faith movement actually teaches that verbal confession is actually necessary for salvation is difficult to believe without direct evidence. In an article written by Kenneth Copeland and posted on his own ministry website, he writes that

To be born again, you use your mouth and you use your heart. First, you believe in your heart that God’s Word is true; then you confess it with your mouth because you believe it.

That cuts directly to the heart of the gospel. Taken to its logical conclusion, the mute individual, or the special needs person who lacks the mental capacity to speak intelligibly cannot obtain the promises of God, even salvation, because they are unable to “speak it forth.” To be fair, the average Word of Faith believer does not, in most cases, logically follow these doctrines to their absurd conclusion. However, I would encourage the Word of Faith Christian to drop these doctrines of demons that they cannot live consistently with. I would advise them to stop supporting Word of Faith ministries, and pray for the souls of Word of Faith ministers.

3. Does the Bible teach that we are “little gods”?

Let me return to our opening passages from prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah 43:10b, the God says, Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. We are not “little gods.” We are His sons and daughters–by adoption (Romans 8:14-17). We are created in His image and likeness, but this doesn’t mean we are “little gods” either–only that we were created by Him to be like Him in ways His other creatures are not. We come from the dust, and to the dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:20). We cannot calleth those things which be not as though they were; only the El Shaddai has the power to create ex nihilo.

In Conclusion

What is the best remedy against the Word of Faith movement? There are plenty of websites devoted to exposing the error of its teachings and the corruption of its leading ministries. Another blog post will not topple these empires built on deceipt–at least not by itself. C.S. Lewis once wrote,

For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

The appeal of the Word of Faith movement is that it emphasizes a powerful and victorious God who wants us to prosper, and has intervened supernaturally to guide the believer by His Word and imbue him/her with spiritual authority. Apart from the distortions of Word of Faith theology, these are all good and biblical concepts. We must be careful, if we are to expose the errors of these teachings not to inadvertently portray our God as a distant and wrathful tyrant, who allows the forces of evil to run rampant and even capriciously afflicts His children “for His own purpose and glory.” That is how some of us sound to the average TBN watcher when we condemn their pet movement. The victory of Jesus Christ over evil, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the goodness of God are the spiritual bread and butter of the Christian. When we deny this food to our brothers and sisters in Christ, they may begin to gobble down the teachings of the Word of Faith movement.

Christianity is, by its very nature, a supernatural religion. Our God created the universe ex nihilo–from nothing. He has intervened in the lives of His people in dreams, visions, prohetic words, plagues, angelic visitations, and miraculous signs and wonders. The founder of Christianity was not merely a good teacher, or a prophet, but God the Son, incarnate in human flesh, who was crucified and rose from the dead on the third day. Some Christians, perhaps in an attempt to seem more respectable, or to avoid the abuses of the overt supernaturalism in movements such as the Word of Faith, or because it makes them feel uncomfortable, seem to want to deny the supernatural aspects of the biblical Christian faith. This needs to stop. I am convinced that part of the reason many mainline Protestant denominations are diminishing while Pentecostal denominations continue to grow is that many of these older, more respectable churches eschew the supernatural in one way or another. Avoiding the strange theology of Word of Faith should not mean throwing the baby out with the bath water by denying the supernatural.

There are various levels of devotion to Word of Faith teaching in the Church. Some Christians fully embrace Word of Faith doctrines I have denounced, along with other tall tales about Jesus suffering the torments of hell and nine persons of the Trinity (or I guess the “novinity”). Many Pentecostals and Charismatics are mostly orthodox in their beliefs, but accept a few Word of Faith teachings on money or faith. A good number of evangelicals embrace the positive vibe of Word of Faith ministries they see on television, and remain blissfully unaware of the oddball aspects of the theology.

I want to point out that I do not mean to imply that all Word of Faith believers are damned to hell. Make no mistake, these teachings are demonic and dangerous, and lead the believer away from sound biblical doctrine. However, most Word of Fathers, as far as I can tell, have a real and loving relationship with the Lord. They have no conscious intention of usurping the throne of God. They need to be patiently and lovingly shown the error of some of their beliefs. When Jesus returns, I believe all of us will need to revise our theology in many areas, so we need to point out these errors with humility, tact, and grace.

Ecclesiastes 7:19 ESV

Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.

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